Indie Interview: Discovering Worton Kitchen Garden
We love a hidden gem here at Independent Oxford – that’s part of the reason we set it up – but it’s rare to find a “you sure it’s down here?!” place that, when you arrive, gives you a I’m-truly-in-the-middle-of-nowhere sense of calm.
But that was what Rosie and I experienced when we visited Worton Kitchen Garden for the first-time pre-Covid and during the few trips during lockdown for locally grown veggies.
However, it was when we recently paid a visit, after all the glorious sunshine, that the magic of the place really came through.
And so I caught up with Simon (@wildbakerman) to discover more about Worton Kitchen Garden…
Hello Simon! We’re in love with Worton Kitchen Garden, but for the uninitiated, tell us all about it…
Worton Kitchen Garden is in the hamlet of Worton between Yarnton and Cassington, just outside of Oxford. It’s a seven acre market garden on the Worton Park Estate which David started cultivating back in 2005. We grow a huge array of vegetable, herbs and fruit that we sell in our shop and have our own pigs and free roaming hens bantams and guinea fowl – you can now find our very own Worton eggs in the shop!
We also have an abundance of beautiful, colourful flowers courtesy of the skills of David and Anna our gardener.
You’ve also got a wonderful restaurant?
Yes. Our restaurant (now open Thursday to Sunday) is where I’m at home. Every day I get to work with the delicious produce grown here on the farm, creating a new menu each week that makes the most of what is cultivated in the garden.
So what’s good at the moment?
Oh definitely tomatoes. David’s Heritage tomatoes (and he has over 20 varieties!) are looking and tasting gorgeous this year. And what could be more delicious than a simple plate of perfectly ripe tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, a good glug of olive oil and herbs? (I can vouch for this – I had it and it was just 🤤). We’re now also harvesting beautiful plump, firm, purple aubergines alongside cucumbers, beans and tomatillos.
And I have to mention Mirabelles – we’ve had a glut of these fickle fruits this summer which I’ve made into Mirabelle Jam and Mira-beena (our take on a certain well known cordial!). Then in the restaurant we had Mirabelle sorbert – sadly all gone now – but it was utterly delicious and bubblegum pink!
(Note to everyone who is now starving and copiously salivating – you can check out the week’s menu over on Worton Kitchen Garden’s News section).
We’ve also got to talk about the bread oven…
Ah yes… I’ve got a wood burning bread oven here (my first love is baking) and so each day, around 4.30am I make my way in, fire up the oven and start on the bread for the day. It’s so quiet and peaceful.
Sounds idyllic! And the sourdough bread it great too. Sounds silly, but it’s particularly sour (in a good way!)
Yes, it is idyllic and you’re right about the sourdough – some bakers try to mask the sourness, but I love a good strong sourdough. For those who aren’t fans though we do have other kinds of bread too!
Naturally you’re big on locally sourced produce (a lot of it is literally picked meters away!), but you’re also keen to source locally and sustainably too where you don’t produce on site?
That’s right. We like to work with people who have a similar ethos to us. So we get our flour from Shipton Mill, cheese from Jericho Cheese Company and we also work with the likes of Yoga Venue to run events like the one you came to recently.
The Yoga and Lunch event the other week was exactly what I needed! An hour of yoga in the glasshouse overlooking a sea of colourful cottage flowers followed by a two course lunch. Bliss!
One thing we need to chat about it the C word – Covid… It’s thrown so many things up in the air for lots of indies but how did you, David and the team cope when the pandemic hit?
Honestly, in some ways it has been good for us in the sense that there’s been a real sea change with people wanting to shop more locally. Rather than going to the nearest supermarket with hundreds of other people, they could instead come here, buy their fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, cheese and more and do that all in a peaceful, safe setting. We also set up an incredibly popular click and collect and delivery scheme which we’re continuing for the foreseeable.
We really hope that the pandemic has sparked a change in people truly valuing local produced food.
Finally then. You’ve tempted us with delicious food, idyllic notions of early morning baking and an abundance of flowers, but when can people experience this for themselves?
We’re open Thursday to Friday 10am-4pm for the Restaurant and In-Person shopping. You can also order produce online for delivery Friday to Tuesday.